WHITPAIN — A controversial residential development project at Mermaid Lake could draw a crowd as members of the Whitpain Township Planning Commission are expected to review the plans during a meeting next week.
The Whitpain Township Planning Commission meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the township facility, 960 Wentz Road in Blue Bell.
The Metropolitan Development Group is seeking approval to build 53 single-family homes on about 63.1 acres of land on the south side of Jolly Road between Wentz and Union Meeting roads, according to the engineer’s monthly report.
The property, at 1198 and 1002 Jolly Road, is zoned R-1 Residential, which is within the park and recreation overlay district, according to the report.
Whitpain Township Manager Roman Pronczak said a previous application was submitted last year “for higher density than what’s being proposed now.” He added the application has since been revised to adhere to the municipality’s existing zoning guidelines.
Vehicles will access the development from the intersection of Jolly and Arch Street roads, according to the report.
Township engineer Jim Blanch has recommended Metropolitan Development Group conduct a traffic study, but officials have yet to receive findings that could identify possible complications on the road.
“I think it [the traffic study] could identify the need for additional improvements [for] turning lanes and things like that,” Pronczak said.
Pronczak added the proposed project could increase the volume of cars on the road and students in the classroom. He referenced a roughly 26,000-square-foot building addition that’s being proposed during the same meeting.
“I think there’s concerns on traffic impacts and even impacts to the school district,” he said.
The proposed residential project also has a conditional use application for a “cluster subdivision,” which is when the developer opts to build a group of smaller homes around cul-de-sacs in order to “preserve environmentally sensitive areas and create more of a buffer,” Pronczak said.
Meanwhile, the township is also eyeing the land involved for potential recreational use and a park.
The township can file a “declaration of taking,” which would allow the municipality to implement eminent domain, according to the Pennsylvania State Legislature’s Title 26 Eminent Domain law.
If that’s filed, the “process stops,” Pronczak said.
“There’s limited open space remaining,” Pronczak said. “So once it’s gone, it’s gone forever."
“I think the residents are very much interested in having this [land] preserved,” he said, referring to the interest in the upcoming meeting.
If acquired, township officials would like to use the land for several “recreational purposes” as a mixed-use park. Some options include ball fields, walking trails, yoga classes, and meeting spaces.
The property has had a longstanding history with recreation. Pronczak said a dam was constructed on the creek to create a pond for a swim club in the 1930s. He added there was a swimming pool built in the 1960s.
As it stands now, the space is used as a camp, golf course and event space.
“There's a big demand for residential properties in the township,” Pronczak said. “People like the township and they like the school district. [They’re] willing to pay a little bit more to move into Whitpain, but as I said, once it’s developed, it’s gone, and we do have additional need for recreational space.”
In the meantime, several officials including the township’s fire marshal’s office, the code enforcement and police departments have been reviewing the proposed development, Pronczak said.
“We’re obligated to make sure that it complies with all of the regulations,” he said. “We need to make sure that what's being proposed is not going to have an adverse impact on any other properties.”
Once the plans reach the Whitpain Township Planning Commission, they can recommend the project, reject it or request more time to review the materials, according to Pronczak.
If the residential project were to receive an endorsement, it could go before the Whitpain Township Board of Supervisors next month, Pronczak said.
For more information, visit the township’s website at www.whitpaintownship.org.